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RIBA President defends profession after Simon Jenkins attack

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Sunand Prasad has hit back at comments from National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins, who launched a scathing attack on the profession last week claiming architects were anti-democratic and ‘interested only in icons and cash’

Writing in response in The Guardian, the RIBA President said he wished Jenkins’ piece had been ‘as informative as it was entertaining’ and branded the outburst as an inaccurate portrayal of the profession at large.

‘If the architecture profession was ‘interested only in icons and cash’, why are they earning less than other professions and why are more RIBA awards not given to the ‘glass boxes, blobs and phalluses’ that developers all over the world are fascinated by?’ he said. ‘Our [RIBA] awards are far more likely to recognise ‘modern designers’ who ‘have worked well within the rhythm of existing city streets.’

Prasad also argued Jenkins’ ‘sweeping statements’ were wide of the mark, his position over the Chelsea Barracks scheme misguided and stressed the scale of the task to turn around the low-quality of public buildings, housing estates and urban spaces.

‘The profession has had to change, and the bulk of Britain’s 27,000 architects quietly deliver decent work for their hugely diverse clients. If Jenkins could see that a better future for our towns and cities needs society to make better use of architects’ skills, he would do more to bring about the quality of public realm that he seeks.’

Read the full response here.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • This is not a debate between old or new architecture but an argument about which style of old architecture should hold sway. Hence its irelevance.

    If we take Edgar Wood's functional flat-roofed buildings as the very beginning of English modernism, it means that the style is now over 100 years old; hardly new.

    I have seen very little "new" architecture in the regeneration of out cities, just the tedious reworking of the old C20 styles, without the vision, excitement or honesty of the originals. I'm tired of this empty-shell old-fashioned architecture. It should go but not be replaced with an even older style.

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